BERKELEY, Calif. -- When California football coach Justin Wilcox took over as head coach of the Golden Bears in 2017, he assembled an unorthodox staff – calling on a few coaches that had never worked at the FBS level.
That included two rising stars in the Big Sky Conference who have helped the team emerge as a contender in the Pac-12.
Former Montana State assistant Gerald Alexander and Eastern Washington head coach Beau Baldwin are in their third season at Cal and spoke to MTN Sports last week about their time in the Big Sky and the transition to the Pac-12.
Defensive backs coach Gerald Alexander is known for his passion on the field. In fact, he gets mistaken for a player sometimes. Alexander was on the Jeff Choate’s staff at Montana State for one season in 2016 and immediately became a player and fan favorite. He says he wouldn’t be at Cal today if not for that one season gaining valuable experience with the Bobcats.
“Just a tremendous amount of impact on my life,” Alexander said. “Getting a chance to work with Jeff Choate and get a chance to get better as a coach, at the FCS level and the Big Sky. It’s obviously a great brand of football. I took some of that experience and applied it here when I first got here and continue to grow as a coach. It was a tremendous experience and I enjoyed my time as a Bobcat.”
And though Alexander is busy with his new team, he stays in touch with players and coaches in Bozeman.
“I got a lot of guys I really care about in that program,” he said “I’m looking for them to be successful and rooting for them here in Cal.”
And the memories made in Bozeman will never leave him. One moment stands above the rest.
“Hands down the Cat-Griz win (in 2016) was incredible, it was a special moment being a part of that rivalry,” he said. “I’m a huge fan of it, now that I was a part of it one year.”
Former Eastern Washington head coach Beau Baldwin is also enjoying his time in the Pac-12 as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for the Golden Bears. But leaving Eastern Washington after spending parts of 13 seasons with the Eagles, including leading the team to the 2010 FCS national championship, was bittersweet.
“That’s a place near and dear to my heart. Loved the people there, and that’s the biggest thing,” Baldwin said. “The players that we were fortunate enough to coach, the people I was fortunate enough to work with, work around, everyone from the top down. The community of Cheney was a wonderful place.”
Baldwin has experienced new rivalries in the Pac-12, but he says it’s still hard to top some of the memories playing Montana and Montana State.
“We had our good and our bad moments, a couple wins at their stadium were pretty special just because that’s such a tough place to win,” Baldwin recalled. “I will always remember a couple of those victories inside Washington-Grizzly Stadium, because they were well-earned. It’s a tough environment, and (the Griz) were always a well-coached football team.”
Cal is 4-1 this season and was ranked No. 15 on the nation before a tough loss to Arizona State last week. The defeat dropped the Bears out of the FBS Top 25 rankings. But despite the setback these former Big Sky coaches believe their new team is on the right track after years of middling success at the conference and national level.
“Yeah, you’re always building and year three is a place to keep building,” Baldwin said. “It’s one of those things where, we can take some strides and we’ll keep taking those strides.”